Social Innovation, Technology

Mobile Internet to Reach 1 Billion Users

Nathaniel recently did a recap of his prediction for social entrepreneurship 2009. I have written about measuring social impact, and one of the other predictions he had is the development of mobile technology.

There has been a number of predictions about mobile internet lately. The IDC predicted that mobile internet users will increase by up to over 1 billion by next year.

IDC predicts that, for the first time, there will be over 1 billion mobile devices accessing the Internet by year-end, gaining quickly on the 1.3 billion PCs accessing the Internet (the former are growing at 2.5 times the rate of the latter).

The Wonders of Smart PhonesThe introduction of smart phones, especially the iPhone definitely had a great impact on the figure, but I think the most exciting is the rapid improvement of the Android, and a prediction that there will be a Google phone by 2010, which I am sure will fuel the figure.

More Internet Users by 2010
I am super excited at all these figures, because I am sure that the cost of accessing the internet will decrease, especially in Australia where internet download is capped – which I found ridiculous when I first moved here from Malaysia, where internet is limitless. Smart phones will also become more affordable, and this means that for the first time, marginalised communities will be able to access the internet quite easily. I was presenting at Making Links recently, and David Mejia-Canales presented on InfoXchange’s Wired Community @ Collingwood project, where they installed computer and internet, and trained the multicultural community to use the internet. The challenges of the project is not only the financial costs involved, but the training proccess.

Installing broadband in a house is not cheap – you’ll have to pay for the phone line and the internet line, both of which can be quite expensive if its used and paid by only one person. With mobile internet, you do not have to know how to operate a computer, and I am quite certain that learning to access mobile web is a lot easier than via PC.

Marginalised Communities
One of the challenge of internet is reaching marginalised communities as most of these people do not have access to a PC, however, findings also suggest that most of them have at least a mobile phone. The Bridging the Digital Divide, a research undertaken by the Inspire Foundation and ORYGEN Youth Health found that the internet and mobile phones play a much greater role than expected in the lives of young people who are socially, culturally or economically marginalised, and it challenges the concept of the “digital divide” which suggests that marginalised young people’s use of technology is limited.

I guess my next point isn’t exactly “marginalised” communities, but “stigmatised” issues. Being able to access internet on the mobile phones mean that young people can access internet in private and whilst the skeptics will say that this is dangerous, my point of view is that young people will be able to access more information, especially those which typically is stigmatised in the community, such as mental health issues, LGBT, diseases and drug use. However, for this to happen, service delivery websites need to ensure that their websites is mobile compatible, which sadly, most isn’t!

Internet as a setting
I think all these highlights my point from previous posts that the internet is becoming more and more of a setting where people converge, meet and connect. It is beyond just tools, and I really hope that more and more organisations recognise this and builds platforms that allow this to happen. The potential of it is there, the challenge is for people to recognise that and do something about it.

Nathaniel also links to a few other services or ventures that have used the mobile phones for good, and the one that I’ve been waiting for since March is the Extraordinaries. It’s a really good example of how a venture draws power from the connectedness that technology has allow us. The connection is there, we just need to recognise it and learn how to use it wisely.

Photo credit: shapeshift